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    « Oliver Platt Joining X-Men First Class | Main | Rooney Mara Cast in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO »

    Marveling At The Past - Iron Man (2008)

    "Jarvis, sometimes you've gotta run before you can walk"

    And with that, Robert Downey Jnr. becomes Iron Man and soars off into the night sky on his first test flight. This was an important moment for me in the film because it was when I decided, no matter what, that it had me from this point on. The test flight sequence proved to be the epitome of something that has been lacking from far too many comic book movies, something which it meant a lot for me to see; the joy of being a superhero, the joy of flight.

    It is fair enough that films such as the X-Men series are about social issues and oppressed characters with powers they view as a curse. It is fair enough that the Batman, Hulk or Daredevil films deal with deeply troubled or disturbed characters with no happiness in their lives. It is fair enough that the Fantastic Four films never seemed to have the money to show their super powers in full swing no matter what.

    That still leaves us with movies such as 'Spider-man'; a film about the underdog being blessed with extraordinary abilities, films that attempt to place us in the shoes of the protagonist and ask the question 'what would you do?'. Most likely, we would go on a crazy all night web swinging binge across the city. We would be on a high. We would never want it to stop. This is why, no matter what some people tell me, I will always maintain that a Superman film, when done right, will be as big if not bigger than any other recent comic book movie. The joy of flight is something we can all relate to as the ultimate representation of freedom from everything in our own lives that tethers us to the ground. If you are looking out of a window as you're reading this, wishing you could open it, soar into the air and go wherever you wanted, I think I've proven my point.

    Jon Favreau clearly understood this because, even though most of us cannot relate to the multi million dollar California penthouse, Tony Stark does exactly this. Even though his goal is to use Iron Man to tackle a global problem, he first instinct once the suit is complete is to give it a whirl just for the fun of it. He has been slaving away in his basement for endless days and weeks building this technology and this is his reward; the ability to, for a brief moment, forget all the problems and responsibilities he has and.......soar.

    This is why, when Downey Jnr. is cheering himself on as he flies, it isn't cheesy, it gives you goose bumps. We are right there with him, sharing that joy. It meant a lot to me because this is exactly the sort of sequence I was expecting to get in 'Superman Returns'. Although I enjoyed the film a great deal, nothing disappointed me more than the sight of CGI Brandon Routh flying across Metropolis in some pretty pedestrian shots. 'Iron Man' breaks free of badly done CGI. It breaks free of the need most comic book movies feel to show heroes as tragic, lonely souls 100% of the time. And it broke free of certain clichés which were really starting to show their age in the comic book movie genre by this point.

    Getting back to that test flight sequence for instance. In a lot of other directors hands, a crime fighting montage would immediately follow. Do we need to see the invincible Iron Man being a friend to the working man by saving a construction worker from falling off a girder? Do we need to see him through the eyes of a terrified lowlife criminal as he stops a mugging? Jon Favreau, thank goodness, believes that we do not.

    How refreshing it is to have a hero whose goals are on a far more epic scale. Tony Stark's own weapons manufacturing conglomerate is dealing arms on the black market to terrorists around the globe and Iron Man functions solely to hunt them down and destroy them, wherever they may be. How refreshing also that Iron Man has no issues with dealing harsh justice to said enemies. Finally we have a superhero (in a PG13 movie) that kills people, free of any self imposed ethical code that prohibits it.

    How great, after three bouts with Mary Jane Watson and her penchant for being kidnapped in the 'Spider-man' movies, to be presented with the character of Pepper Potts; a mousy but quietly confident, considerate, charming and likeable character. So often the support that our hero needs to get through adversity, the 'rock' if you will, comes in the form of a parental figure, deceased or otherwise. 'Iron Man' smartly places that function on the shoulders of the token female love interest and, as such, stops Pepper Potts from being just the token female love interest. Rather than being shoe-horned into the climax as bait for the hero, she actually brings about the climax by exposing Obadiah Stane for the criminal mastermind that he is.

    The only cliche the film does fall pray to is with the villain himself. The only time the film slows to a crawl is during the five minute sequence where Stane needs to steal Stark's arc reactor powered artificial heart and does so by using a sonic paralysing gadget and then monologuing about he is behind everything and how Tony can do nothing to stop him. Though it may appear that Stane feels the need to eliminate Stark so that the company he is just as much an owner of can get back to making weapons, something which the latter has forbid and as such has become a liability. But the film clearly states that Stane conspired with the terrorists who captured him well before the events that happen later in the film which gives him the appearance of a slightly one dimensional power monger. Actually, come to think of it, that does kind of make Stane an original villain amongst all the jealous boyfriends, father figures and generally flawed people who have strayed from the light but are good deep down inside, which seem to populate the rest of the Marvel movies. It is refreshing to have a villain who is just a son of a bitch.

    So that is really all I have to say on the subject of 'Iron Man'. I just wanted to explain what I responded to most in the film. Even if the planned Marvel Film Universe does completely unravel over the next few years, we can always look back on the first Iron Man as a self contained, untainted, glorious bout of fun. Speaking of that film universe, the first misstep came just a month after the release of 'Iron Man' in the form of 'The Incredible Hulk', a film that I do have a lot to say about. I hope you'll join me next time for that.

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